29 July 2005

Vacation: I'm already there.

So tomorrow I will take leave of DC and head to OC to relax. I am still debating on weather to take the bikes or not. It's kind of a pain in the ass to haul them down there, what with figuring out the goofy trunk contraption (it'd be nice to have a roof rack, but there you go) and always having the apprehension that I'll hit a bump and leave the bikes scattered across Route 50.

Update on my list of things I won't be doing: eating any of that dippin dots, the self-styled "ice cream of the future." Has anyone else ever tried that shit? They now sell it at Nationals games, but I can't figure out why. And everytime I walk past the place on the boardwalk, it's empty. Empty. The stuff is just frozen pellets of nasty syrup. Who buys this stuff at the quantity that keeps them in business, or is it just a front for laundering drug money? I don't get it.

The weather looks like a nice mid-week but crappy weekends.

I'm sorry to disappoint all of my numerous vocal readers, but I probably won't be doing any updating from the OC.

26 + 6 = 1

The IRA ordered the "end to the armed campaign" in the six counties on 28 July 2005. Three decades ago it would have been unimaginable to see this day, unless it had come in the wake of a full British withdrawal. So the IRA, which has made many concessions (certainly more than the loyalist paramilitary groups) since the Good Friday Agreement has taken an immense step toward peace. However, I'm not sure the unionists will respond in kind.

The unionists have the most to lose if the Good Friday Agreement goes forward, because they basically enjoy their goals under the status quo, and any move to interrogate the status quo or negotiate a more equitable distribution of power can only lead to a decrease in the legitimacy of their position.

The entire island had been a British colony prior to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 (I'll skip the treaty and civil war bits), at which time Ireland was partitioned into the 26 counties that are currently in the Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties that Britain still maintains colonial control over.

Over the years, Britain has given up nearly all of its colonial possessions, from India (1947) to Jamaica (1962) and most recently Hong Kong (1997). Most of its remaining fruits of imperialism consist of tiny islands more symbolic than anything else (see Falklands). Yet it stubbornly maintains this contentious piece of real estate on the island of Ireland.

Perhaps with continued IRA overtures and political developments such as devolution in Scotland (even some Welsh with Plaid Cymru are reasserting at least a consciousness of independence), the unionists will have no choice but to respond seriously to the Good Friday Agreement.

However, it's important to note that nationalism will only get you so far. As James Connolly said back in 1897,
If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin
Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your
efforts would be in vain...Nationalism without Socialism – without a
reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of
that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin - is
only national recreancy.

Special note to idiots out there: just because Adolf Hitler's party called themselves "National Socialists" (Nazis), it doesn't mean they were socialists any more than the former East Germany calling itself the German Democratic Republic made it either democratic or a republic.

Yes it's all more complicated than one post can encompass. It's difficult work untangling centuries of oppression and over three decades of armed conflict. As the gossip monger Drudge would say, "Developing..."

28 July 2005

Good Eats at the Beach

My wife and I take the kids over to the beach for day trips every now and then, and that always involves dinner somewhere. Having small kids, we unfortunately have to avoid some of the fancier/sophisticated places.

Our favorite place in Rehoboth is Big Fish Grill, on Route 1 just south of the main entrance to Rehoboth, although Jake's Seafood (I've only been to the downtown one) is also good. Our first time at Big Fish was in 1999, before our first child was born, and the place was small. It has since expanded twice and they still have lines out the door most nights. Even on off-season weekends, the place is busy. Big Fish is a great place for kids, because it's noisy and you can draw on the table covering. The food is quite good -- I love the salmon -- and plentiful.

Just north of Bethany Beach is a wonderful place called Redfin. Now that our son is five and our daughter is really quiet at 4 months, we might give the place a go with kids. It, too, gets extremely crowded in season. Redfin is also on Route 1, and it looks out over the bay -- the dining room walls are basically windows, affording tremendous views of the sunset over the bay.

We don't day trip to Ocean City because it adds half an hour each way and not much is open off-season in Ocean City, but when we're in Ocean City we'll go down to Harrison's Harbor Watch at least once. The food is generally good -- seafood mainly -- but the best thing about it is the view of the boats coming through the inlet. Very kid friendly.

I haven't eaten at Phillips since I was a kid, so I can't say much about it. I think they're overpriced if you want crabs. Go to Higgins instead. Again, this comment is only for the steamed crabs that you sit and pick.

If you want sandwiches or more casual fare, head to Fish Tales at Bahia Marina (22nd Street). There's a sandfilled playground for kids and an interesting mix of sketchy people and preppy people. In other words, it's a microcosm of Ocean City itself.

Don't get taken for a ride by Trimpers.

Let me tell you a little something about the amusement ride situation in Ocean City. It's a rip off. This post is for all the hundreds -- thousands probably -- of parents who read me daily looking for advice on how to entertain their kids. My advice is to drive the 30 miles to Rehoboth if you want to ride the rides, especially if your kids are under nine.

  • In Ocean City, a ticket costs $1.25 (all prices are close but not exact: constructed from memory), and no ride is less than two tickets.
  • In Rehoboth, a ticket costs $.25 and the little kid rides are 1 ticket, most kiddie rides are 2 tickets, and except for the bumper cars, haunted house, and stupid spinning thing that looks like a flying saucer, nothing is more than 4 tickets. Five bucks will keep one child riding for quite some time.

So here's a suggestion (except for Saturdays): you pack the car up around two or three in the afternoon and head up Coastal Highway. Stop in Bethany if you want. Nearing Rehoboth, be careful not to hit the aging drunk fraternity and sorority types in Dewey Beach. Once in Rehoboth, avoid the main drag (Rehoboth Avenue) and go for a side street. There's often a few spaces to be had oceanblock if you venture a few blocks off the main drag. Ride until dinnertime. Eat at Grottos, maybe pick up some Thrashers, or if you're more ambitious (and remember this is with small kids), go to Big Fish Grill, but only if you go early. The line is outrageous after five-thirty.

If by the way you don't have kids or your kids are older and/or well-behaved, check out Planet X Cafe (35 Wilmington Avenue). With or without kids, avoid these Mexican-themed establishments: Tijuana Taxi and Dos Locos. Crappy food in both places. I've never had a worse chile relleno than the one I had at Dos Locos. I figure they stay in business because a cold margarita sounds so good after a day at the beach.

Maybe tomorrow or later today I'll write about places I like to eat at the beach.

27 July 2005

Short Timing: Counting days to vacation

Three days to go. I can't wait to get out of this town, if only for a week. I plan pretty much to sit on the beach and read, every now and then getting up to cool off in the water. I'm thinking of taking The Kite Runner as my opening book. It's been sitting on my shelf for about two months, but I thought I'd tackle Proust's Swann's Way. However, the copy of Proust that I have is an old Modern Library edition and is halfway wrecked as is. It wouldn't stand up to the beach. Besides I'm only 35 pages into it; I'm not terribly committed to it.

Or I could be good and take some dissertation related material with me. It wouldn't be the first time. However, I'm not sure I'm up to reading Kristeva or Irigaray at the beach. Besides, they may not turn out to be that useful for the direction of the chapter, but right now I think they fit. Mainly, I have to get this chapter out or I'm really going to be brushing up against my deadline.

But beyond the beach and said reading materials, I'm sure I'm going to be doing much eating of Thrasher fries, taking my son on rides (which means a trip to Rehoboth), and in general finding ways to spend money that I don't have.

Things I won't be doing: going to the Purple Moose, Brass Balls, Mother Cluckers, Hooters, Dutch Bar, Bearded Clam, Big Peckers, etc. I also won't be buying t-shirts of the same, nor will I be buying t-shirts with confederate flags, slogans about johnsons, or "breathalyzer" themes.

I also will not make the mistake of allowing my brother and his girlfriend to drag me out to Seacrets to drink for approximately six hours before stumbling down Coastal Highway and spending the next day unable to move and wishing I could carve out my insides with a rusty bait knife.

26 July 2005

Coming soon: my bittersweet vacation

I am one week away (really only four days) from vacation. I'm looking forward to it quite a bit, even if it is pretty local. That's right, I'm headed to the O.C. with my extended family. Yes, I know Bethany and Rehoboth are nicer. And no, I'm not driving to f*#king North Carolina for vacation.

In order to put this trip in context, you have to realize a few things:
  1. My family has been going to Ocean City since 1974, when there were only one or two condos and no big grocery stores. In fact, there was pretty much nothing but sand and an occasional outpost between 33rd and 108th Streets.
  2. When I say family, I mean my grandparents (RIP), my aunt, my cousins. And now a new generation, with our own children.
  3. We always go the first and second weeks of August.
  4. We've stayed in the exact same apartment complex every year, almost every year in the same unit. It's like a second home in many ways, including the furniture that's been there since 1974.
So Ocean City to me holds a nostalgia that it wouldn't hold for the newbies who rightfully label it a pit. It is a pit. It suffers from rampant development, unlike its Delaware neighbors. Unfortunately, every year it becomes more pit-like, because the remaining old growth is being cleared away for new, higher density units. So each year I'm able to see a few more two story apartments or old-style motels razed and replaced with five, seven, or ten story packed buildings.

Of course, higher density means more traffic, less beach space, and importantly more revenue for property owners, businesses, and the city tax coffer. It also means, for our family at least, that some of the little charm that remains in Ocean City fades year after year. If our apartment complex is ever sold (it's six individually-owned units, so it would take some time to convince all owners), I don't think we'll be back. Ocean City won't care; five or ten families will take our place.

25 July 2005

Bob Dylan as Colonel Sanders

This photo says it all.

Apparently he had the guitar custom made.

Concert goers also got a bucket of chicken with their tickets.

Burning down the House

The doom and gloom on the local housing market picks up the pace today. The Washington Post has a one-two combo: a front page story and Tom Toles's editorial cartoon. Apparently houses aren't getting snapped up after only two hours on the market anymore. Wes Foster of Long and Foster tells the Post a scary story from Boston:
"It's very healthy," he said. "It worried the pure hell out of me the numbers we were seeing. I remember Boston in 1982 to 1989, when [prices] went up 25 percent a year for six years, and then in one year [they] fell 87 percent. The ride up for everybody selling was wonderful but the ride down was awful. . . . It was very painful and I don't want to see that here."
Ouch. 87% in one year? How'd you like to be holding an interest only loan for $800K and find your home worth about $105K? Am I doing the math right?

The interesting thing about the Post article however is that homes in the District as opposed to most suburbs actually sold more quickly compared to last year's numbers. Their chart, on the right, indicates DC and PG dropped in days on the market. Additionally, the Post reports, "In the District, the number of houses sold dropped by 8 percent" in comparisons between June 2004 and June 2005.

Of course, uber-investor Warren Buffett in May had already cooled to the urban property market, citing this cheery little tidbit:
A lot of the psychological well being of the American public comes from how well they've done with their house over the years. If indeed there's been a bubble, and it's pricked at some point, the net effect on Berkshire might well be positive [because the company's financial strength would allow it to buy real-estate-related businesses at bargain prices]....

Nice to know someone's ready to scoop up the bargains once the bottom drops out. Someone always is.

Then again, there's this suspender-clad lawyer on "legalwhiz.com" -- would you trust this guy? -- who scoffs at the very idea of a real estate bubble. However, after a lengthy discussion of the semantics of "bubble" and "crash," he offers this sage advice:
The bottom line is, the real estate market may go up, and then again, it may go
down. So what?

Paging Lionel Hutz.

And one of my favorite critics of contemporary foolishness, Mike Davis, opines that the housing bubble is the only thing floating Bush's weak economic boat:
Similarly, the hottest home markets -- Southern California, Las Vegas, New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C. -- have attracted voracious ant columns of pure speculators, buying and selling homes in the gamble that prices will continue to rise. The most successful speculator, of course, has been George W. Bush. Rising home values have propped up a stagnant economy and blunted criticisms of otherwise disastrous economic policies.

Hmm. If Davis is right about the housing bubble floating the economy, then more than homeowners will be in for a world of hurt if the housing market crashes. For my part, I've seen some crazy prices around here. This development in particular is hilarious. I visited their open house and found out they wanted $525K or $545K for a 1 bedroom + den -- and this unit had no parking.

23 July 2005

Karl Rove and George Bush

A little background. First we know that Bush claimed in summer 2004 that he would fire whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name. Second we know that Karl Rove leaked that name. Third we know that Bush now claims that he will fire anyone "who committed a crime." DC Dan has a concise take on Bush's exacting terminology.

Before moving on to the duplicity of GW Bush, let's first ruminate on the interesting idea that Bush actually has to pledge that he will remove criminals from his administration. I'd say you can't set the bar any lower than that.

Now, from our set of facts above (1,2,3), we have to draw one of two conclusions: either Bush knew all along that Rove was the leaker and has been lying to the American people about it or Rove hid his involvement from Bush. Really, can anyone offer any other explanation? Either Rove told Bush or he didn't, and if Rove told Bush, then Bush has been lying to America since the moment Rove told him.

Now that scenario is damning, especially to a President who likes -- against all evidence to the contrary -- to portray himself as honest and full of integrity. So obviously, it would be more comforting to believe that Rove hid his involvement from Bush, duping the President.

But the second scenario is only slightly more comforting, because that means that one of Bush's most trusted advisors, the man dubbed "Bush's Brain," withholds information from the President and is more of an acting loose cannon than an advisor. In other words, it should be hard for Bush to put his faith in a man who has lied to him.

That Rove still has his job doesn't speak well for Bush. It certainly shows clearly that he is not a man of his word. More importantly, it leads to speculation that Bush can't afford to fire Rove -- either because Rove is too important to the operation of the White House (i.e. he really is Bush's brain) or Rove knows something that would make a public divorce very very embarrassing.

Check out this White House press briefing from way back in 2003 to see how solidly paid liar Scott Mclellan insists Karl Rove simply was not involved and that Bush has specific knowledge that he wasn't. It doesn't take a genius to realize either Bush or Rove or both lied through their teeth.

If the lapdog press doesn't get complacent, this story should make for an interesting late summer in the swamp.

22 July 2005

Scattered musings: biking Georgetown edition

A few things occurred to me on my morning commute today. I was riding along M Street in Georgetown and I passed the Pottery Barn. I thought about how that place used to be an independent grocery store or a co-op back in the early 90's. Of course, then Georgetown used to have a lot of independent stores, from Orpheus Records -- which is now in Arlington -- to the Key Theater -- which is now the site of Restoration Hardware. All those theaters are gone -- Biograph, Key, the Foundry (where you could see second run and independent film for $2) -- replaced by a corporate megaplex showing only mainstream releases. The only record store that hangs on is Smash, and they've done it mainly by turning into a boutique -- I remember about 1995 Smash started expanding their clothing and accessories until it seemed more a punk haberdasher that also sold music than a "music store." Still I bought my hair dye there back in the day.

Then I saw this man, probably in his mid-20's, with one thing in his hand: the new Harry Potter book. Now I'm not knocking Harry Potter or Harry Potter fans, but I think it would be interesting to see what percentage of adult Harry Potter fans also show up in the child molester registry.

I'm looking forward to that Trader Joe's that'll be going in where the old Columbia Hospital for Women was. Construction is really moving along and I'm sure it'll be another batch of what's billed as "luxury condos" with retail on the lower levels. It'd be nice if those builders had to do some truth in advertising: "shoddy construction with unfinished hvac installations."

In the meantime, someone has been impersonating me on the cpmc site. I have no idea why, but I'm sure I have many enemies, given my prominent position in the blogosphere. Everyone wants to take out the top dog...

21 July 2005

Thursday is the new -- oh wait I have kids -- still Thursday

So there were some explosions on London mass transit again today, but this time they were minor and caused only a few injuries. Still, it seems an indication it could happen relatively soon again. I wonder if the folks at Fox News are chortling gleefully like they did last time.

Here in DC, it's hot. Anyone else notice? For the past two weeks I've been taking my son to camp in the Glover Park area from Adams Morgan. I go over Q Street bridge and then begin the long climb up the hill to the Burleith/Glover Park area. On one hand, it's a nice workout for me and I need it, believe me. On the other hand, I go straight to work afterwards. As I'm rushing down Wisconsin, I feel an overwhelming urge to chuck work and just ride all day.

This morning I noticed his knees are now jammed up under my seat. He's really getting too big for the seat and I have two options: 1) by a trail-a-bike or 2) stop taking him on the bike. He isn't big enough to ride his own bike that distance (I am trying to wean him off training wheels though), and exercising option 2 means taking the bus, which I've done often, but there's no way riding the bus compares to riding the bike.

Today I also have to pick him up. That means I'll be climbing up Wisconsin in the afternoon. That should be a lot of fun.

Hopes and dreams all come to naught.

Bought a few powerball tickets yesterday. We had all sorts of plans for the winnings. Aside from paying off all our student loans, we were going to stop having to buy Safeway Select.

One of the first things I was going to do was buy a new bike. My hybrid is getting a little wracked out. After that I really didn't care what we did with the money. Maybe I'd buy Left Bank and turn it into a homeless shelter.

However, I checked the numbers this morning and it turns out we didn't win. We had five tickets -- five -- and not one of them pulled the winning numbers. Apparently, your odds of winning aren't that good. According to the DC Lottery site, the odds are 1:120,526,770 that you'll draw the jackpot numbers.

I have returned to work chastened.

20 July 2005

Clues that you should call Child Protective Services

Yesterday, the Post reported on the murder of a six year old boy in his home. Now it appears the mother is going to be charged with the crime. Quite often in children's homicides, a family member is responsible. And quite often there are warning signs. Here's a good clue that you need to intervene:
Yesterday, relatives of Donmiguel's father, Donmiguel Sr., 34, were trying to come to grips with the killing and the relationship between the boy and his mother.

Patrick Sweeney, 51, Donmiguel's paternal grandfather, said that other relatives had described Barber as acting strangely in the last week. "She was complaining about voices and talking to the devil," Sweeney said.
Holy crap! Talking to the devil? What about that doesn't say disturbed to you, Grandpa?

Note to others: if you hear a parent relating their conversations with Beelzebub to you, grab the kids and run as fast as you can.

19 July 2005

This world is messed up.

I was going to write about the Q and Not U show at Fort Reno last night (oh yeah and the first band, Son of Nun, were damn good -- and they threw out a little go-go tinged hip hop at the very end of their set), but then I picked up the paper this morning and saw on the front page a story that made me cry.

I'm pretty cynical about a lot of things. I keep my distance emotionally from a lot of idiocy in this world, such as the Bush regime policies. Sure, I rail against them, but I have an understanding of evil that allows me to rationalize why Bush tramples the Constitution and works to undo nearly every strand of our social contract, while at the same time causing death and suffering overseas. That's all large scale and in a way abstract. But I cannot ever rationalize or come close to understanding the direct, personal harm done to children. This particular crime seems utterly barbaric.

I am staunchly anti-capital punishment, so death penalty is out, but life without any chance whatsoever of parole and extremely limited visitation rights would satisfy me. People who hurt or kill children simply need to be gone permanently from society.

Maybe I'll write about the Fort Reno show later. Right now I'm too pissed off and torn up to think about it.

18 July 2005

Here's a moron for you.

Wow. They must grow them dumb in Colorado. According to CNN.com, Colorado Republican Representative Tom Tancredo made this Ann Coulter-esque oversimplification on Friday:

Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.
"Well, what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.
"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.
"Yeah," Tancredo responded.

God what an idiot. Sort of like the British government bombing the Vatican for an IRA attack.

Apparently, no one teaches civics in high school anymore.

I feel a little out of touch with the mainstream here. My early schooling took place under the "Founding Fathers" revival of the Bicentennial, so I had an early respect for the Constitution and ideals of our democracy. However, it was post-Civil Rights era, and there was a lot of examination of the nation's failings to live up to its creed (slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese-American internment). In other words, it's not enough to wave those documents around: you have actually to practice what those documents preach.

Fortunately, I also was raised on writers like Thoreau and Emerson, who were both rigorous and skeptical. To wit, from Emerson's essay "Self Reliance": "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness." Emerson also discusses the ways in which the needs of society call for a certain level of conformity, and how the overall impulse of society is conformity.

That's pretty heavy stuff, because Emerson is not throwing out society for the sake of the individual: unlike libertarians, he understands that you simply can't do that. He warns, however, against the impulse toward conformity and urges everyone to question the received truths and published goods.

Thoreau is even more radical:

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with
their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens.

This excerpt from "Civil Disobedience" (aka "Resistance to Civil Government"). Thoreau picks at the base of society, the respect for the "rule of law" that we are constantly reminded separates our democracy from an autocracy. Thoreau's objection is that over-respect for the law creates automatons who may excuse their actions as outcomes of application of the law [see Milgram Experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, or Abu Ghraib].

The bottom line for both Emerson and Thoreau -- and they're not alone -- is that blind obedience to government, uncritical acceptance of received "truths," and unwillingness to challenge and reflect upon experience signal a dehumanization of sorts, a regression not only in the individual, but also in society (which paradoxically strives toward conformity).

While it has always existed to some degree, I see in both major parties an intense refusal to examine their own positions or to cross party lines. The Karl Rove debacle is the latest instance of this impulse. Rove, a master of dirty tricks from way back, has finally been caught in what might be one of the dirtiest tricks of them all: exposing a CIA field operative. In addition to ending Plame's career, Rove proved that vindictive politics for him trumped any concerns for national security.

Unlike Mark Felt, whose impulse may have been vindictiveness but whose leaks protected the nation by exposing wrongdoing at 1600 Pennsylvania, Rove's leaks uncovered no wrongdoing but rather were meted out as punishment for Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, who had strongly critiqued BushCo's rush to war on shaky evidence.

By all rights, Rove should be gone already. President Bush, who once claimed he would *wink wink* find the source of the leaks and then *nudge nudge* fire the source, apparently thinks better of the decision to try to operate without his brain. This government is what we're left with when we rally around the banners of "family values" and "faith" and "patriotism" without examining the actual practices of those carrying the banners.

Rove needs to be run out of town on a rail, and Bush should get going right after him.

17 July 2005

NetFlix Review: Don't Look Back

Watched the 1967 Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back by D.A. Pennebaker. I am a big Dylan fan, at least of everything up to and including Blood on the Tracks. After that, it gets really hit or miss, and mainly miss in my opinion. Like his contemporary Neil Young, Dylan lost his way for at least a while. Unlike Neil Young, I don't think Dylan ever found his way back. For me, the 1980's is Neil Young's lost decade, whereas Dylan's lost decades are the mid 70's through the current time, but especially up until 2003's Love and Theft, which is alright, but simply does not capture the brilliance that young Dylan exhibited.

Anyway, if you have any interest at all in Bob Dylan or in the state of pop/folk music in the mid 1960's, this movie is crucial. It follows Dylan around an England tour in 1965. He's accompanied by his then-girlfriend Joan Baez, who's got a beautiful voice but is unfortunately or maybe presciently recorded mainly singing Dylan's songs, since nearly everyone in that Greenwich Village folk circle is seen by our collective cultural memory rightly or wrongly as satellite's around Dylan's sun. It also reveals how much has changed in the world of music, as Dylan's rather small entourage and harried escapes from fans after shows attest.

The most amazing thing about the film, however, is the way in which Dylan handles the press. Dylan antagonizes, insults, and evades the press and their questions in every interview. He refuses to answer anything straightly, instead challenging the legitimacy of both the question and the medium in which the answers will be presented. The sole exception may be the BBC radio interview he does in which he's given three very general questions that he is allowed prior approval on -- but we don't get to see his answers and I haven't heard the final interview, so I don't know. He particularly skewers a Time magazine journalist, essentially telling him that he and Time's audience wouldn't have any way to understand his answers.

At root of this antagonism is Dylan's insistence on the imprecision of language, which is interesting since he is something of a contemporary of the late Jacques Derrida, whose theory of deconstruction takes as its scope the impossibility of linguistic determinacy. In an early scene, Dylan is asked, "Do you care about people?" and he replies, "We all have our own definitions of those words, starting with 'care' and 'people'."

This reticence continues to today, with Dylan pronouncing in his Chronicles that he didn't mean anything, that people read too much into his lyrics, that he wasn't "the voice of his generation." Well, that may be how he wants it, but the weight of history is a hard thing to unload. Reading a newspaper report about himself, Dylan jokingly remarks, "I'm glad I'm not me." Again, he's firmly in Derrida's camp here. Derrida writes, "Only the name can inherit, and this is why the name, to be distinguished from the bearer, is always and a priori a dead man's name, a name of death" (Ear of the Other 7).

Dylan comes off as extremely cagey and distant, even in the behind the scenes shots. He never lets his guard down. In that act, at least, he's been almost entirely consistent throughout his career.

15 July 2005

Things I've observed from the small circle of blogs I check

So after several months of scrutinizing DC blogdom, or at least a small slice of it, I've come away with these perceptions:

1. Everyone has more disposable income than they can spend.
2. Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- hangs out in the VIP rooms of bars and lounges across DC.
3. Amendment to #2: Everyone goes to about four different places repeatedly.
4. Everyone attends Gold Cup and anything else with a Cup behind it.

This is a world unfamiliar to me.

Caveat: Everyone is obviously not everyone.

My income is generally spoken for the moment it is deposited into the bank.

I have never been in a VIP room and I'm fairly certain I've never been in a club that had a VIP room (except maybe a few times I was at 18th Street Lounge. Don't know if they have a VIP room).

The places I made several repeat trips to back in the day: Common Share, Nanny O'Briens, Brickskeller, Fox and Hounds (I'm fairly certain I spent almost a third of 1993/94 there), Black Cat, City Blues Cafe (defunct).

I couldn't give a rat's ass about Gold Cup, Courage Cup, or anyone else's cup. Unless it's the Stanley Cup.

Catciao is prolific and on top of things. He should have more readers/comments.
Governess is pretty much right on.

I think I need to branch out my blog reading.

Update on the State of Affairs, vol. 1

I think I've been doing a good job of being a prick online lately. I got "banned" from DCB's site -- well at least an IP of mine got banned -- but that's not exactly a big loss. Then I dropped some snarky comments all over the place, like a dog marking its territory, or maybe like a pre-arrest Borf.

Just doing my best to spread joy.

Speaking of which, I was out at Trader Joe's last night for a family grocery trip, or as we Pennsylvanians like to say, "food shopping." Picked up some wasabi cashews. You should try some.

14 July 2005

Short Attention Span Theater

Apparently the media are bored with the Rove story (where the hell is this liberal media that all the right wing fascists -- O'Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh -- throughout the media are talking about?) and they've moved on to things like emmy nominations. Way to track down a story, newshounds.

At least the Post has kept digging on the Abu Ghraib story. Rather than accepting the official army story -- and the right wing and mainstream apologists' story -- that these were "isolated incidents" that were carried out by "rogue" officers, we now find out that these tactics were tested in Guantanamo before they were transplanted to Iraq.

Oh, and these tactics aren't creative thinking on the part of some lower level leash holder:
The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in
interrogating Mohamed Qahtani -- the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks -- were used at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 as part of a
special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee. [Post]

That's right. Rummy himself was aware of and authorized these tactics. I'm beginning to believe John Dean when he argues that BushCo is indeed worse than Watergate.

13 July 2005

Book Review Time: Chuck Palahniuk's Diary.

Just finished Diary by Chuck Palahniuk. Previously I'd read Choke and had seen Fight Club. That movie by the way is the first that made me consider Brad Pitt to be a serious actor, even if Ed Norton was better.

The thing I like about Palahniuk is that in every encounter I've had with his work, he does the same thing but in a different way: the truth is always shifting until you aren't sure in the end whether to trust the narrator or any of the characters. In fact you're often not sure what's real. His work really involves a critique of how we build our reality and of course the holes we necessarily suture over to make narratives out of life. It's a great theme, reminiscent of Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 but not derivative.

The diary of the title, likewise, comes to mean more than one thing in the course of the novel. On one level, it indicates the chapter headings and occasional second person addresses in the text, but the "you" of those addresses is a comatose man, Peter Wilmot, whose wife, Misty Marie (Kleinman) Wilmot, is the novel's main character. The diary also refers to the journal Misty's mother-in-law keeps that appears to tell the future. It also could mean the chaotic ramblings that Peter left all over the walls of houses on which he did handyman work. A bit more abstractly, it refers to the seemingly random notes Misty discovers in library books and scrawled on the undersides of tables.

Further up the ladder of abstraction, the diary functions as a metaphor for the story of our lives -- the way we narrate ourselves to ourselves and try to make sense of what's happening to us as we move day by day closer to nonexistence. For Misty, the pieces don't fall in place until it's too late, and in some respects that's true for all of us: we are much better at analyzing the past than in predicting the future.

That Palahniuk makes Misty an artist (or more correctly, a former art school student who married a classmate and returned pregnant to his family's homestead on a coastal island -- I pictured something like Martha's Vineyard, but less populated and without much of the charm -- and has since been waiting tables and generally living the life of the working poor) who doesn't produce anything until her mother-in-law and several townspeople conspire to make her suffer physically and emotionally obviously forces the reader to think about the origin and production of art (the book's jacket features a large "Where do you get your inspiration?" slogan).

That the art itself isn't the object of the townspeople's desire, but is only a means to an end, also calls into question the uses of art in our society. I would argue that much of Palahniuk's work critiques consumer culture (e.g. Fight Club), and Diary could be seen as a swipe at the culture industry, in which cultural objects (like painting, literature, movies, etc) are merely commodities in which profit and loss are more important than "artistic value."

The book is engrossing and once I got fully behind it I had trouble putting it down. Palahniuk definitely understands how to put the pieces together to reveal enough to keep the reader's interest without revealing so much that the reader can figure it all out.

Next up (I think): Marcel Proust's Swann's Way (it sounds better in French: Du Côté de chez Swann)

12 July 2005

Simpsons v. Family Guy

CNN.com, having been stymied by BushCo's refusal to answer questions about Karl Rove's outing of a CIA operative (and apparently having no idea how to get information the old fashioned way after the white house press secretary -- who's paid to stonewall by the way -- stonewalls them), is running a story on the simmering feud between the Simpsons and the Family Guy, both programs which incidentally run on right-wing tycoon Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network.

I can't say I've really found anything funny about The Family Guy. Sometimes it's mildly amusing, in the same way that watching a person trip over a curb is amusing. Maybe it's because I'm old and the Simpsons represents the old generation and the FG represents the young hip up and coming generation, you know the Pepsi drinkers as opposed to the fuddy duddy Coke drinkers. I'd argue, however, that there's almost no depth to the humor in FG and that stupid toddler with the British accent is more disturbing than funny.

Hey Kids! It's Marching Season Again!

There's nothing like a centuries-old battle to stir the pot. In this case, it's the Battle of the Boyne, 12 July 1690. As always in July, the good old Orange Order hold their marches through Nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. It's sort of like when the KKK decides to march through Black neighborhoods (of course, these days the idiots in their bedsheets are generally outnumbered by anti-racist protestors). Lest we think the IRA is the only violent group in the "Troubles," we have to remember that the Orange Order and their sympathizers love a good firebombing, too.

Could you imagine Yankees dressed in Union Blue marching through Atlanta every year on November 14th?
DC in July is so wonderful. The air hardly moves to get out of your way as you walk down the street, and even when you're really really careful you're always on the edge of sweaty. And of course there are all the tourists, but let's face it: without tourists, DC would be like Baltimore, or maybe worse.

Last night we had to run some errands out in Virginia and on the way home, we stopped at a grocery store. It was 9:00 p.m. We go in the grocery store, and it's blasting the air conditioning. Up the produce aisle, down the refrigerated area, etc etc. Finally hit the checkout and get through all that. 9:30 p.m. Head back out to the parking lot. The second the door opens it's a blast of hot air like you opened up the oven to see how the pizza was doing.

I've lived here for 12 years and I'm still bitching about the summer weather.

Meanwhile, Catciao is continuing a full court press on Karl Rove. Excellent work, I say.

CPMC is showing gratuitous cleavage.

Rock Creek Rambler is still in Mexico.

So that's all the namechecking I'm going to do, because it'll get even lamer if I simply run down a list like this...

Until I write again, I offer you a chance at redemption.

11 July 2005

London Redux

I grew up mainly in the seventies and can vaguely remember Patty Hearst, wildcat strikes, and numerous airline hijackings. Also gas rationing, the Iran hostages, and waiting in line for the first Star Wars movie.

I'm thinking about these things mainly because I'm thinking quite a bit about the reaction to the London transit bombings. Shocking as they are, as I wrote before, they're nothing new to London.

Back in the 1970's, while we were enduring "even-odd" days at the gas pumps and the biggest domestic terrorism was the Weather Underground planting bombs in (usually) unoccupied buildings (or accidentally blowing themselves up), the UK was living through a series of IRA bombings both in England and in Northern Ireland.

I think the major difference between then and now is that then the IRA was never in a million years going to bomb the USA (despite what crackpot Tom Clancy might dream up), especially since most of their funding came from here; in fact, the only foreign group to perpetrate a bombing in the USA, and in Washington no less, was Pinochet's Chile, in the assassination of Orlando Letelier. Henry Kissinger has blood on his hands from that one.

Al-Qaeda, however, has cast their net a bit wider than the IRA's...their supposed goal of casting the "infidels" out of Muslim lands makes pretty much any non-Muslim majority country -- and even Muslim majority countries that aren't seen as cooperative -- targets. Of course, helping the USA in any way moves you up the target list. Therefore, these London bombings, like the Madrid bombings before them, signal activity that could just as well be taking place in the USA.

Hence all this shock in the London attacks -- shock that is for the US, but not for the UK.

And please please please, let's not have any more of macho posturing with no realistic goal in sight. You say start shooting people? Who? The guy on the bus who looks like his bag's too full? The five hundred villagers rounded up in the hills of Afghanistan because somewhere within ten miles someone fired a shot at a helicopter? That strategy didn't work in Vietnam; it hasn't worked for Israel; and it won't work in our situation. Unfortunately for us, what will work in our situation isn't easy to swallow, because it means rethinking the economic assumptions that have organized our lives for at least 80 years.

10 July 2005

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

So about a month ago, maybe a few weeks more than that, we ran over a big plastic bag on 395 near the Pentagon. Didn't think much of it, even though the bag was the size of a mattress (but it wasn't a mattress bag -- it was really thin stuff). It blew around on our grille for a while, then went under the car. End of story, or so we thought.

A few weeks later, we were driving to NYC and had to stop between DC and Bal'more because the bag apparently had never left us -- it was wrapped around the front driver's side axle. Not cool, but after twenty minutes work, I got rid of it. Again, end of story. Or so we thought.

Over 4th of July weekend, we headed up to the Keystone State to frolic at my ancestral home and then to head over to Mechanicsburg for a basketball and barbecue party. All's well until we need to run a few errands around the hometown before heading to the town of mechanics. For some reason the car keeps popping out of fifth gear. I mean, heading down the highway -- I mean rural backroads -- and the shifter is jumping into neutral right before my eyes. The car has 8500 miles on it, so it wasn't a happy sight.

We called around the area Honda dealerships and found out no service departments were open on a Saturday -- not just a holiday weekend Saturday, but any Saturday. That's OK, we call that old school -- like when the grocery stores were the only things open on Sunday. Fortunately, we can borrow my parents' car [full disclosure: minivan] and go on our way. My parents agree to take the car to the dealer on Tuesday.

Last Thursday the car is fixed. I go back to PA to get it. Find out it's not covered by the warranty because it was that damned bag again. That damned billowy floating piece of highway detritus that fell off some nasty ikea-loving intern's crappy 1994 Corolla no doubt. It apparently had lodged somewhere near the gearbox and melted on some seal (looked like the ring at the base of a condom) and ruined the seal. Goddamned bag.

The good news is that the repair was only $130. I'm sure in DC it would have been somewhere around $400. The other good news is that I'm no longer driving my parents' minivan around.

07 July 2005

Condolences to London.

Are these Al-Qaeda blasts much different from IRA attacks like the Birmingham Pub bombings? Both organizations target public places such as pubs, department stores, and public transportation.

We may need reminding that London has lived through this sort of terror before. Of course, the IRA has/had moderately more realistic goals -- return of the six northern counties to the Republic of Ireland -- than Al-Qaeda's apparent desire to turn all nations with significant Muslim populations into Islamic Republics (their kind of Islamic Republics actually) and isolate them from the world at large.

It's horrifying when bombs go off, and that's of course exactly the point.

However, it's also disgusting to watch President Bush use this occasion to blithely ignore reality and continue to insist that his version of the War on Terror (TM) is helping. Could this guy be any less articulate? I suppose he doesn't find any irony in his words when he says he is spreading an "ideology of hope and compassion" as he authorizes implicitly or explicitly torture and mass civilian casualties through indiscriminate bombing.

We are faced with a huge challenge in how to keep our society's values intact while combatting a dedicated core of fundamentalists who take advantage of our openness. The Bush administration's solution, thus far, has been to curtail rights that we have often seen as foundational, such as freedom of association. As far as real advances in the War on Terror (TM), we have thus far been treated to a tremendous bait and switch called the Iraq Invasion. And this, at bottom, is the problem with Bush's philosophy: in the absence of a clear target, BushCo found a scapegoat in Saddam Hussein, who had obviously been out of favor with the US Government since he invaded Kuwait (sorry Saddam, but no more handshakes with Donald Rumsfeld for you!).

Now Iraq is both a "supporting point" to Al-Qaeda's thesis that the US is interested mainly in oppressing Muslim peoples and a great ground for recruiting and training new terrorists.

Explain to me again why this fool has a job?

06 July 2005

In principle she's right, even if her reporting is so so wrong.

Well they sent Judith Miller to the hoosegow. Too bad. The Bush administration must be pissed though, because Miller is one of the mainstays of the so-called flagship of the "liberal media" who beat the drum so damn heavily for war in the first place. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too. While Bush and his cronies were chirping about the anti-American press, Miller was shoving bullshit information down the public's throat like we were all getting ready to become foie gras.

I do feel for Ms. Miller, because she's standing true on one of journalism's most cherished beliefs: the sanctity of your sources. Now I may be a bit cynical if I think Ms. Miller doesn't always care much if her sources are reputable or even telling a bit of the truth, but hey, it's a principle thing, right? After all, protecting such an important contact inside the Bush administration gives you cred with those nutcases for future "scoops." Of course, it seems kind of silly now that Time has let the cat out of the bag.

I'd feel a lot more sorry for Ms. Miller if she hadn't been basically doing bagman work for the administration. It's one thing for a reporter to go in and dig out stuff the government doesn't want us to know; it's quite another to become the medium through which the government distributes war disinformation and pisses on those who disagree with its policy.

I wonder what her prison name will be?

05 July 2005

A Reunion of Sorts.

This 4th (3rd actually), the family took off to the cooler climes of Mechanicsburg, PA, where it actually gets cool in the evenings and in the morning the air is refreshing. It's the kind of place where they call for highs in the high 80's, but lows in the 60's, unlike DC, where the highs and lows are separated by about 4 degrees.

An old friend of mine lives in Mechanicsburg with his wife and their young young son. He invited several college-era friends over for the 4th weekend and just as we did in college, we got into a little basketball game. Spent 4 hours Sunday afternoon playing outdoor ball on some of the stiffest rims this side of ... uh, never mind. Then we ate and went back for an evening session that lasted about a half hour.

All of this would have been great if we'd been five years out of college. However, we're 14 years removed from the idyllic days of green grass and higher thoughts. It also would have been nice if any of us had remembered to wear sunscreen.

I'd include photos, but they're too embarrassing.

01 July 2005

Weekend Notes

Had a good time up Fort Reno last night. The Routineers were good, even if their affinity for the word "fuck" seemed incongruous with the amount of little kiddies there. The Evens were also good, after the sound system got adjusted properly. Ian MacKaye lectured the audience a little and told a few stories, but unfortunately they didn't play "Mt. Pleasant Isn't."

I'm getting out of the District for the weekend. No need to swelter with all the touristas when I can escape to the quiet rolling hills of Pennsylvania. Maybe get back on Monday to catch some fireworks up at Malcolm X Park.

I'm not even going to write about the latest insults to DC, from Sam Brownback's idea that voucher money for the DC voucher program should be spent in Virginia or Maryland to the multiple members of Congress looking to lay waste to the District's handgun restrictions. I don't need such crap on a 4th of July weekend.

Weekend reading assignment for those interested: Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

I hope both of my readers have safe holidays.